Indian parliamentarian charged with raping 14-year-old maid

GUWAHATI, India (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A politician in north-eastern India has been arrested and charged with raping his 14-year-old maid, the police said, after a month-long investigation that triggered public protests by students over the authorities' lack of action.

Police in the tea-and-oil-rich region of Assam said state legislator Gopi Nath Das had gone into hiding in early September after his maid accused him of raping her in his car.

"Gopi Nath Das has been arrested today," Mr Indrani Baruah, Kamrup district superintendent of police, said late on Sunday (Oct 4), adding that he was picked up near Guwahati, Assam's main city, after a police search which involved raids at three residences.

The legislator, who is in his late 50s, has been charged under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, Baruah added.

Das, an MP with the opposition party All India United Democratic Front, has denied the charges and said there is a political conspiracy to malign him ahead of state elections next year, police said.

Reports of employers abusing their domestic workers are common in India, including failure to pay them or provide adequate food and shelter, making them work long hours, and even locking them up. Some are subjected to physical and sexual violence.

But the abuse is difficult to detect as it is hidden within the home, and under-reported because victims are often frightened to go to the police.

In November 2013, an Indian parliamentarian and his wife were arrested after their maid was found dead in their Delhi home.

The MP was charged with concealing evidence and his wife with murder. The case has not yet come to court.